‘CMOs at the Wheel’ authors Nadine Dietz & Erica Seidel on the modern marketing organization
Dietz & Seidel recently published their 'CMOs at the Wheel e-book based on interviews from their 'Driving the Modern Marketing Organization' column.
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Nadine Dietz and Erica Seidel not only have their fingers on the pulse of the modern marketing organization, they have an in-depth understanding of how CMOs are inspiring company cultures across the board.
A former CMO herself, Dietz serves as the chief transformation officer of The Female Quotient, an organization focused on building gender equality in the workplace. Seidel is the founder of The Connective Good, a recruitment agency focusing on senior-level marketing roles.
The two have interviewed several of the world’s top marketing leaders for their “Driving the Modern Marketing Organization” column, all of which have been compiled and published in the e-book, “CMOs at the Wheel” in partnership with MarTech Today, chiefmartec.com and MarTech Conference series.
The book includes interviews with 11 different CMOs from well-known brands including GE Healthcare, Visa, Hilton Worldwide, IBM and Arby’s. As part of the book’s launch, Dietz and Seidel shared a few insights they’ve learned after speaking with the world’s leading marketers.
An interview with ‘CMOs at the Wheel’ authors Nadine Dietz and Erica Seidel
Amy Gesenhues: In the book, you write about how a marketer’s career path has evolved from a straightforward career ladder into more of a “career tree” with many branches. Do you see any specific areas of marketing with more branches than others?
Erica Seidel: I see marketing leaders being increasingly open to hiring talent from outside of marketing. Just look at some of the highest-performing marketing organizations today — they are not made up of just career marketers. Rather, they can have statisticians to extract data for growth opportunities, journalists and videographers to tell stories in compelling ways, anthropologists with the acute listening and observing skills to find fresh insights from customers.
In the last week, I’ve spoken with two B2B CMOs who need product marketers. They both said, “I can teach the specifics of product marketing; I prefer hiring someone who knows our customer and knows how to write and collaborate. It’s OK if they haven’t done product marketing before.”
Of course, people who are “transfer students” into marketing from another discipline should carefully do their due diligence before making that move. I encourage people like that to get a realistic preview of the job by asking to see product marketing deliverables, spending a day in the office, sitting in on sales calls, and speaking with people who have years of experience in product marketing.
Nadine Dietz: For hiring and advancement, most CMOs are looking for the best athletes versus the best functional experts. Yes, in many cases you need specialists, but especially at the leadership level (VP+), you need individuals who know how to be optimal teammates or leaders despite which way the game is going.
Consistently, we hear, “Be okay with operating in the grey” because technology is changing fast and consumers are changing faster, which means marketing is in a constant state of evolution requiring testing, learning, and not only being tolerant of failure but failing forward. This resembles “best” athletes in that beyond solo function, they have strategic skills, collaboration skills, team influence, resilience and endurance. And as Erica said, you can always teach the function, so it doesn’t really matter where they come from as long as they bring unique value and perspective to the table, and can adapt to varying situations.
Amy Gesenhues: How do you see today’s top marketing leaders inspiring the overall company culture in a way that delivers results?
Erica Seidel: I was doing a search for a marketing VP for a tech company that was funded by one of the best-known private equity companies. We marched through the search, interviewed candidates, had the top candidates do a presentation and checked references.
As a last step, we introduced the finalist candidates to the Board member from the company. Often, this is just a formality. But in this case, the board member asked each candidate, “How many customers have you talked to?” Alas, the candidates had not talked with any customers and were caught by surprise. The Board member persisted and said, “I just don’t understand how you would take a marketing leadership role without having first spoken to the customers you would serve.”
Gulp! We restarted the whole search from the beginning. This second time, we asked candidates to incorporate customer insight into their final presentations for the role. While it was time-consuming to restart and — I’ll admit! — frustrating for me as the search leader, I was impressed by the customer-first orientation of the Board member.
His job is to raise the bar, and that he did. Since we finished that search and installed a VP of Marketing, that company has won award after award for its fast growth, increase in NPS scores and customer-centered innovation.
Lara Hood Balazs from Visa, who we profiled in the e-book, needed to build a faster, more nimble organization. Here’s what Lara shared with us: “First, I took out two to three layers in the organization and blended the teams so that people didn’t work on a specific product line. Everyone started working across multiple products and across multiple channels. Now everything is done in project-based teams to increase collaboration.”
And a quote from Tumi’s Chief Digital Officer, Charlie Cole, who we also interviewed: “Realize that incrementality is your biggest enemy. It’s really hard for marketers to get beyond incrementality. With incremental gains, you don’t learn enough to succeed or fail. So don’t just celebrate the latest PR placement. Instead, ask your team, How will you try something once per quarter that will be a huge failure?”
Nadine Dietz: This is absolutely one of my favorite topics. I just want to expand on the two examples Erica quoted from Visa’s Lara Hood Balazs and Tumi’s Charlie Cole because I’m passionate about inclusivity as the key factor for success in both of those scenarios.
It’s one thing to put butts in seats, move the seats or set objectives, but it is entirely different to provide an environment (culture) where those butts in those seats with those objectives can bring their best selves to drive innovation and growth. At the end of the day, the best investment today for companies to drive growth is in their people, and helping leaders provide an inclusive, caring, empathetic and safe environment where every person’s ideas are welcome, heard and considered.
We see the all-too-sad reality of those pesky Gallup numbers — 67 percent of employees are disengaged due to skill or value fit. The actively disengaged (the angry and resentful) cost the US around $450 billion to $550 billion a year.
With Lara, one of the great benefits she saw from taking out layers was an immediate parity across all team members (especially women members) that fostered a truly collaborative and innovation-rich environment.
With Charlie, he is exceptionally curious about the unknown, so he is on a continuous discovery journey where he actively engages all of his team to come with their ideas. He does this with his outside partners as well. He may not pursue all the ideas, but everyone has an opportunity to share and to be heard.
Amy Gesenhues: You note that among the changes you see happening within modern marketing organizations is a shift from outsourcing to taking more initiatives in-house — what do you see being brought in-house most frequently?
Erica Seidel: We interviewed Barbara Martin Coppola, the CMO of Grubhub, who said: “When I first came to Grubhub, we had data capabilities, but we weren’t focused on what parts of that data were most relevant. Today, we have a whole new data science team that creates new algorithms to get to the heart of the story. For instance, what inspires our diners and how does that vary by location?”
Also, more and more companies are bringing programmatic in-house, both to save money and to hone it as a competitive advantage.
Nadine Dietz: A big trend now is to bring creative and content in-house. A big example from our e-book is Kieran Hannon, CMO of Belkin. He built an entire “Voice of the Customer” agile marketing and branding capability in-house where they can iterate concepts overnight.
Barbara Martin Coppola from Grubhub also developed an in-house think tank called “GrubTank” to mimic Shark Tank, where cool new ideas can be pitched from her team, no matter what level, and if their idea is great, Grubhub will invest. A lot of cool new ideas are being born from within versus using agencies to create.
Amy Gesenhues: I love the list of “one-word inspirations” from the CMOs in the e-book. What would be your one word for CMOs most likely to inspire their teams in 2018?
Erica Seidel: Upgrading. That’s what the story above about the Board member raising the bar is about. Marketers who are “upgraders” raise the bar and think business first, marketing second.
I remember that we interviewed Justin Steinman, who at the time was CMO of GE Healthcare IT. He spoke of hiring marketers who are broad and clear business thinkers. He also said, “I make sure that marketing is aligned to all the goals of the business. So at a business leadership team meeting, I never talk about my marketing budget; I talk instead about our marketing budget. I am the steward of that budget, but we as a leadership team need to decide which products and markets to bet on. Then marketing will go and get the leadership team the best value for their dollar.”
Nadine Dietz: I totally agree with Erica that developing financial and business acumen is essential. Much like Steinman, Antonio Lucio, CMO of HP, always says, “I am a business person first, a marketing artisan second.”
And Raja Rajamannar, CMO of Mastercard, co-built a marketing finance team with his CFO so that they could better measure the impact of marketing, and would always be able to answer the question of “Why should I give you a million dollars?” in three simple steps: “Be brief, be bright, be gone.”
Having said that, my one word would be “Inclusion” or “Authenticity” for all the reasons I mentioned before. I launched my podcast “CMO Moves” to go deeper here because I see some really great CMOs who absolutely embrace and wear their “Chief Culture Officer” hat as part of the array of hats they must wear. Yes, they are business people first, but that means knowing how to inspire your teams is good for business.
We quote Stan Slap in the introduction of “CMOs at the Wheel.” Slap is a culture expert. He said simply, “If you can’t sell it inside, you can’t sell it outside.”
Yes, being customer-centric is critical as a CMO, but knowing how to deliver on the customer and brand promise is knowing how to empower and uplift the employees who represent your brand from the inside. It’s all about inclusion, bringing bright people together who connect emotionally and authentically with the brand they represent (via shared values) and can unbiasedly work together to share that goodness with the world in the most innovative ways.
As Chief Transformation Officer of The Female Quotient, I spend a lot of time thinking about Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. My CEO, Shelley Zalis, is an inspiration. She called the company The Female Quotient — TheFQ for short — because she believes (and she’s totally right) that when you “… put female into any equation, the equation gets better.”
From a gender equality standpoint, hands-down, no denying that is absolutely true because females bring critically important and unique skills to the table that would otherwise be missing, delivering sub-par business results. The same can be said for any race, any lifestyle cohort, anybody who is different from another. The market being served by all these brands consists of all types of people, so why wouldn’t you want a team that represents the market and ensure each and every one has a voice?
Dietz and Seidel’s e-book is available for download here: “CMOs at the Wheel: How are they Driving the Modern Marketing Organization?“